Dan Wisniewski 1946-2020

Words by Duke Welter

Photo by Sara Rigelman


Tributes to Dan are popping up all over the internet, attesting to this remarkable man and all he was able to accomplish:  Chief of staff to Gov. Tony Earl, aide to several other governors, the legislature, Kathleen Falk as Dane County exec, mayors.


An original member of WI TU’s legislative committee, who with Jeff Smith help pass the state’s first groundwater protection law and later protection for wetlands.


A fighter for public access, key ally and strategist in twice beating back TU’s eastern bow-tie crowd and keeping the organization involved in speaking for the public’s rights to use our waters.  He helped develop national TU’s program to fund acquisition of key parcels for public access.


Dan also worked to develop Dane county’s conservation and public access program. He was Co-founder of the Northwoods Land Trust. Headed WI’s Bureau of Commissioners of Public Lands and protected tens of thousands of acres.  Dan pushed successfully for Wisconsin’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship program acquisitions of tens of thousands more acres in the Northwoods.


One of the best strategic minds I’ve ever met, always asking “how can we get this done?” and figuring out how to do it.


When my life was falling apart a decade ago, Dan was one of a group of friends who were there to listen, hand me a wee dram or two (sometimes three), and help me move on. 


Jeez, I will miss him.  But I will always treasure his memory and be able to use his example to ask the same question. And I am glad that WI TU was able to honor Dan in February for a lifetime’s worth of work for the common good.


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